There aren’t a lot of benefits of being a thirty-six-year-old film reviewer. Mainly, because you’re thirty-six years old and have been forced into writing what is essentially the arsehole of the newspaper. Even book reviews would be better. You can pretend to be a bit educated. If you were reading Kim Kardashian’s autobiography, you could mention the differences between the latter and Kafka and then make a hilarious joke about the Ks. Or not hilarious. It wouldn’t matter either way because I’d get a bigger column and they might even let me change the picture they put next to my name from a pseudo-mugshot they sprung on me when I was twenty-two, to a modern photo in which I would look mature and classy. However, benefits of writing film reviews, is that no one is ever suspicious when you have to spend an evening away from home. By no-one I mean my wife, obviously, who is OK. Eightish years ago we said our I Dos, which was fine. I wanted to elope and she wanted a big wedding in a manor house in Kent. So we compromised and got married in a Manor house just outside Kent. She’s at home now with our three-year-old. They’re probably watching Peppa Pig and eating those organic fruit chews she swears by. I’m at the barbers in Eastbourne station because Hannah flips out if my hair flops in anyway. She thinks its hipster nonsense. I think it’s helplessly clinging at my youth. I pick up an old magazine and flip through to the horoscopes. Aquarius is rising, or it was sometime in 2006. The only thing rising in 2017 is my heart rate. Christ. I put the magazine down, step outside and light a fag. I take three tokes and stamp it out. A girl passes in a pink sundress, short blonde hair, kitten heels. She glides through the turnstiles and stands on platform 2. If there’s a God, it’s his work that we’re getting the same train. I follow her in and stand about fifteen foot from her. She smiles at me over her shoulder. I think so anyway. She crosses back past me and sits on a bench, crosses her legs, uncrosses them and then crosses them the other way like some exotic mating dance. I can’t look away. Goddamnit. From her bag, she pulls a metallic notebook, and a pen which she immediately begins to chew. Lips on plastic. Lips on plastic. Lips onpl astic. Until her mouth fills with blue liquid. She gags and removes the pen. She looks at her hand.The pen sits useless. She gags. Glorious.
I’m not sure where to start. The main representations I’d had of Chicago were negative. When I got off the coach, I walked as quickly as I could towards my bus stop, feeling beyond vulnerable despite it being before 2pm, and empty. But I saw scared because my brother had shown me the crime statistics, and I’m scared of just about everything anyway.
It was supposed to be stormy for the 3 days I’m here, but the moment I left the hostel to explore Lincoln Park the sun popped out. So I walked along to North Avenue Beach and looked over to the city. Then I grabbed some ramen, a can of Margherita and sat in the hostel garden drinking and reading.
Yesterday I walked from Millenium Park to Lincoln Park by following Lake Michigan. The only money I’ve spent here has been on food, 2 postcards and a couple of buses, but I don’t feel like I’ve missed out. Last night I went to a free comedy showcase, and afterwards ended up going to a vegan cafe in Wicker Park with one of the comedians and then sitting on some swings, talking about intersectional feminism.
In short, Chicago has shown me that it doesn’t matter how a place is represented it’s what I see that matters. It made me step outside of my comfort zone and flip some metaphorical switch.
But, it’s no Cleveland, is it?
Outside the church the crowd
grows and weaves like hives of
bumble bees. In the planters lilies
grow like stars in dusty skies and
sparrows twitter and dive like
school children on asphalt.
Or were they doves? All shattered
by the chiming bell; dispersed across
the cracked pavement where weeds
bleed through the cement and tangle
with the pins of stiletto heels. Shoes
attached to feet attached to women
stood with backs turned against squawks
of wind. Scarves like snakes writhing
around the necks of static men. Until
a dull pastor voice splits a path and
we all stand in line to throw dust
on a casket.
I’m sat on a roof terrace in Ohio City, Cleveland, drinking a rose beer I bought from Dave’s Supermarket and looking over Downtown Cleveland’s skyline. It’s had been grey all day, but as afternoon turns to evening the the clouds are starting to melt away, and the blue is peaking through. I didn’t have the highest hopes for this city. When I mentioned that it was my first stop on this adventure I was mostly met with:
‘But why Ohio?’
Which I get. I’ve been here for about 24 hours and I’ve seen everything I wanted to. But there’s a lot of charm, and a lot of people that appreciate the English accent.
When I got off the Greyhound yesterday, it was pissing it down. That and the breeze off Lake Erie pretty much convinced me that I was back at home. As I tried to find my bus stop, a man from RTA stopped me to ask if I needed help. Turns out the bus stop I was looking for didn’t actually exist, and so he walked me to the right stop, despite the rain, and despite it probably being his break.
Then, on the bus my dollars wouldn’t go in the slot, so after five minutes of fiddling and sighing the bus driver, whose was admittedly fairly unimpressed, let me on for free.
The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, was as I imagined, and I’ll admit there were moments I was sad I wasn’t seeing it with my Dad, who introduced me to the artists that dominated the exhibitions. Then I sat by Lake Erie, and felt pretty proud of myself for actually doing the things I said I would do.
Back on W 25th St, I tried to find somewhere for lunch, which turned out difficult, as I’m not yet willing to go into a proper restaurant alone. When I walked into what I thought was a cafe, I panicked at the order desk and asked for a coffee, which the waitress didn’t understand the first three times, and when she realised it was an accent that was the problem, and I apologised for being in English, she gave me the coffee free of charge (or I stole it, at this point I’m not sure).
But what I am sure of, is that I don’t mind that it’s four o’clock on a Friday, and I’m sat alone on a rooftop. It’s nice to know that I don’t have to comprise with where I’m going, and get time to think. And while Cleveland may not be many people’s choice destination, it’s pretty sweet and welcoming.
Basically, Cleveland Rocks.
America’s Biggest Toys.
‘Discovery cove is a paradise of rocky lagoons’ is what welcomes you on the home page of Discovery Cove’s website. At SeaWorld you can join ‘majestic killer whales’ on a journey ‘into a world that drenches your senses in vivid color’. And, for a limited time you can see all this for the low, low price of $74.99 (kids under nine go free). Like many seven-year-olds I was thrilled to see penguins and sea lions and dolphins (in a special VIP encounter). It was our first trip to the United States, and my and my brother’s faces twisted into smiles when we saw what it had to offer. My brother ordered a ‘slushee’ and we all laughed when it turned his mouth blue.
If Disney Land is the most magical place on earth, SeaWorld comes a close second. How could it not when their dedicated rescue team are creating ‘nutritional formulas’ for orphaned animals, and saving ‘sea turtles with cracked shells’ using only ‘honey and baby ointment’? Over the last fifty years, SeaWorld claim to have benefitted over 28,000 animals. In the wild, a killer whale’s life expectancy is only 30-50 years and Corky is 51. It’s a magical place where I swam with sting rays that looked like table cloths and I watched a parrot relieve himself on my brother’s head.
The Man on the Bench.
As I drag my sorry arse out of the mattress I notice a post-it note lovingly stuck in my hair:
‘Stop using my house for sleep! I will call the police next time!’
Classic Rahim. I find a pen in my back pocket and write our names in a little heart at the bottom.
It’s interesting, I think. It doesn’t matter which way I turn I always end right back here. Maybe not here ‘here’, but a similar ‘here’. Always a stretch of floor and always a little hungover; a stranger’s bed and feeling fully aware that time just keeps tick-tock-ticking away.
That is my understanding anyway. And technically it’s not a stranger’s bed. It’s a mattress on the floor of a Man-Who-Sells-Big-Issues-on-Street-Corner’s Home. His name is Rahim and I’m pretty sure he’s my closest friend. I would like to say best friend but the truth is that I’m not sure if I’m ready for that kind of commitment. At my age I’m not even sure how you become best friends with someone. When I was younger I would just waltz up to a guy (or gal) hand them a sherbet dib-dab, shake their sticky hand and simply announce our new found best friendship. But as an adult? I don’t think confectionary cuts it these days. Maybe jewellery, like those little hearts with the cut through the middle; ‘Rahim and Stretch: BFFs.’
And so, just like that I grab my Mighty Boosh bag and head for the door. I catch sight of myself in the landing mirror. I shudder. I leave. Stepping right into a small pile of sick in the doorway, I’m pretty sure it’s mine, but I’m not going to clean it up right now. Or ever. That wouldn’t be my jam, and I refuse to settle for anything less. Jam. Am I hungry? Have I eaten in the last twenty-four hours? Wasn’t I supposed to call Ma before dinner yesterday? If I didn’t eat dinner I definitely did not call. So, now I’m hungry and guilt-ridden; happy Tuesday me. Tuesday Tuesday Tuesday. The most important day of the week. Tthhee mmoosstt iimmppoorrttaanntt ddaayy ooff tthhee wweeeekk.
-Hi there, can I ask if you care about animals?
-… coming to an end! LEAVING THE EU WILL KILL OUR CHILDREN.
-Bong! Bong! Bong! Bong! Bong! Bong! Bong! Bong! Bong! Bong!
“Picture this,” Amy said. She was stood on a bench outside London King’s Cross and the tourists kept taking her photo, mistaking her for an attraction. Tommy was opposite with a plastic bag full of cheap cider, crisps and dodgy sherry. Her hair was vibrating in the autumn wind. “Me and Lex. We’re sat in History with a backpack full of vodka between us and Mr. Harps- you remember Mr Harps?”
“Uh-huh,” Tommy said. He zipped his hoodie to the top and grabbed a can from his bag.
“Mr Harps wanders over and asks- Tommy?”
“I’m listening,” he said into his phone. “Haven’t heard from Justin.”
“And yah won’t, love.” Amy said, now pacing along the bench. “He won’t’ve charged his phone, but he’ll be here.”
“Yeah.” Tommy said, flipped the phone closed and put it in his back pocket. “So you and Lex?”
“Moments passed, mate,” she said and using Tommy’s hand as support, she jumped down. “But it’s a good’un.”
“Tell me later,” He said, opened the can of cider and poured some into a drain. “We’ve got all day.”
“Picture this,” Tommy said. Justin had just rocked up twenty minutes late and clapped both of their hands and backs.
“No,” Justin said. “Not yet.” He picked up Tommy’s bag and he and Amy started walking towards the underground. Tommy watched them walk for a few seconds before jogging to join them. He wasn’t exactly sure how long it had been since the three of them had been together, but he did know that they would meet for Lex’s birthday like they had since they were in school. Every year had meant a different London district and today they were starting in St James’s Park. Gone were the days where they would sit in a cheap Southampton bistro and drink rounds paid for with copper coins. The boys with banjos that they used to watch had all grown up and moved to commuter towns with their boring wives and boring children. Justin was now getting supporting slots with top forty bands and fucked off on tour every few months, Tommy had started to give up on his music career before it had started and Lex? Ha. Recently, Amy had told him that some days when she woke up with a dry mouth and rattling head she would trace her fingers over the pictures of the four of them: Tommy with more ink than sense and a height that meant his forehead rarely made the print; Justin, in an acid wash denim jacket, stood on his tiptoes to try and fool future viewers that he was anything more than 5’9, and little Lex, beaming in the centre with her shoulder length white hair and oversized flannel. On the rare occasion that Amy would look in the mirror, all she saw were tunnel eyes and cracked lips and the same dungarees she’d had since secondary school. She’d worked at the same bar in Exeter for the last five years, and she still kept her car keys and a guitar pick on her bed stand in case she ever needed to leave. Tommy had always known Amy like the veins on the back of his hands, and knew that for her sake today would be different. Today would be different. Continue reading